Now the land of Phrygia, many years past,
Had no king, and the people were rather downcast
Till the Telmissus oracle made a decree
That a new king was coming, and that king would be
Seated in the next ox-cart that entered the town;
Yes, that driver, he said, must receive the royal crown.
So it then came to pass that an old peasant cove
Name of Gordias, into Telmissus he drove
In his ox-cart, in front of the priests as they prayed,
And thus Gordias, King of the Phrygians was made.
Now Midas his son was an upcoming lad
And he was exceedingly proud of his dad,
And so to Sabazios he dedicated
The ox-cart, but first a fine knot he created
That bound fast and tight the cart’s yoke to the shaft,
And when he was finished young Midas he laughed:
“I declare that in future who unties this thing –
Of Asia this man he will surely be king!”
The centuries passed and Telmissus decayed;
To Gordium then was the ox-cart conveyed
And there in the palace the cart was displayed,
Though the knot, many tried, tightly tied the knot stayed
Until on that day when the cold winds of fate
Blew in from the west, Alexander the Great.
Alexander rode in dressed in armour of gold
And he said: “I say chaps, if I may be so bold,
Where’s this Gordian knot? And I won’t tell a lie,
I’ve been practicing hard for your knot to untie.”
So they showed him the knot; on the cart it was tied;
Was of cornel wood bark, and for years had defied
Every twiddler and twister and keenest boy scout;
Not a man in the land, could this knot figure out.
So the puzzle, did Great Alexander inspect,
And no ends and no starts did his keen eyes detect.
Then he said: “Damn and blast! I must untie this thing,
Or of Asia, apparently, I can’t be king.”
Then he had an idea and he whipped out his sword;
With his usual flair, Alexander ignored
All the rules, as he struck at the knot with a laugh:
“Ha ha ha!” and he split the knot cleanly in half.
Then he mounted his horse, bid the Phrygians: “Goodbye!
I’ve an empire to conquer, I really must fly!”
And he left Gordium in a great cloud of dust
And the people of Phrygia somewhat nonplussed.
For this truly, for them, was a terrible day,
As they peered at their dismembered knot in dismay,
For their tourism industry needed that cart;
As they looked on, the yoke and the shaft fell apart.
A disaster! They knew they were in for a slump –
With no knot, why would anyone come to this dump?
So they twisted some bark; made a long length of twine,
And with strangle and granny, half-hitch and bow-line,
They constructed a knot, that while not like the old,
It was ten times as big, and for sure it would hold,
And was so convoluted no one could untie it,
And in any case, few would get near to try it,
And thus was their earner, the knot, back on track –
As long as that smart Alec never came back.